Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

Business Lessons from a Half-Marathon: Hurrying Up to Wait

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I ran half-marathon number three of 2009 (in my Swiftwick socks, of course) a few weeks ago. I returned to Disney World to do so, which always puts on a good race with a fast course and a fun time (you can get your picture taken in front of Cinderella's Castle or with Donald Duck, for crying out loud).

I was excited to return to where I posted my PR (personal record) back in January to see if I could best it. And, I was excited because all of my family would be down there, covering the Family 5k the day prior.

Leading up to the race, I'd been training well. My previous half-marathon was about three weeks earlier, so I mainly ran between 3 and 6 miles when going on my regular jogs. I thought if I maintained a general pace on those runs, I'd be able to keep that up over 13.1, provided I didn't hit a wall like I did in Birmingham. I was planning on preventing that by toting some carbohydrate gel with me to ingest at mile four or so.

But here was the ultimate kicker: I had to wake up at 2 AM to go run the race.

The race was at 7 AM, Eastern Time. The last bus to the start line left at 5. So I'd have to get up at 4. Which is like 3 my time. And it was Daylight Savings weekend, so it was really like 2.

Trying to run on just a few hours sleep, waking up when you usually are in sweet, sweet slumber is not fun. In fact, it's downright difficult. I think I could have done it if I'd been out of the gate an hour after waking up. But because I had to get on the bus, get to the start line and wait for a while, it made things troublesome.

So there I was at the start, sitting on the ground, covered in a cheap blanket, listening to that techno stuff they play through the loudspeakers, trying to relax before covering 13.1 miles.

In other words, I had to hurry up just to wait.

Sometimes, our work can be like this. We want to launch a new project, redesign a site, hire a new team member, market to a different audience or jazz up our employee relations. A lot of excitement and ideas are generated, but then there's a lag between when we're able to do the work, interview the people or make the decisions. We feel stuck, frustrated, and maybe even angry.

So what can we do while we're waiting? If you find yourself waiting on someone else or on something to happen, try these ideas:

  • Stretch yourself. I used some of the waiting time to stretch my legs periodically, making sure I'd be loose and limber when 7 AM finally rolled around. In our work, we should be doing the same thing. Read a different trade publication, or think of a free or low-cost way to do something you're currently paying for. Dream bigger dreams. Learn about someone else's job. Stretch yourself so you'll be stronger and faster when the project finally gets green lighted.
  • Make friends. I didn't do this, but I could have met as many people as possible in my corral. I wasn't looking for long-term friendships, mind you, but it would have been a great way to pass the time. In fact, in a race like this, where folks come to run from all over the US, I'm now curious as to how many people I could have met from different states. And, while you’re waiting for something to happen at work, it's a good time to build alliances. Talk to people in other departments. Eat lunch with someone you don't know. Get to know your boss better. You never know when random encounters and relationships can develop into strategic partnerships or mutually beneficial networks.
  • Look around and laugh. There were no port-a-johns at the starting line. And that meant folks were darting into the woods to relieve themselves. Most runners have done this plenty of times, so it's not a big deal, but you can't help but laugh when hundreds of people dip behind the tree line to empty their bladders. At work, downtime can give the same opportunity to observe what's around us, and if appropriate, have a chuckle or two. The delay itself may be something to laugh at, especially if that's all you can do. Or, maybe the way something is always done, something you overlooked, or something that needs fixing give you reason to laugh. And, while waiting isn't always fun, laughing usually is.

Delays are frustrating, and a simple silver lining won't remedy them. But, there are plenty of advantageous things to do in the meantime. Taking advantage of the waiting will have us ready when it's finally time to run.

This post, like most of my running posts, was generously sponsored by Swiftwick socks. They're a carbon neutral company that quite simply makes the best athletic socks in the world. Give them a try. If you don't like them, you can get your money back. And, if you use coupon code SD10 at checkout, you'll get 10% off of your order today.

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